Saturday, 10 December 2016

Review - 'Legends of Tomorrow', S02E08 - 'The Chicago Way'

Since the series began, one of the most consistently entertaining aspects of Legends of Tomorrow has been its willingness to fully embrace the absurdity of its own premise. With a team of 'Legends' drawn from the supporting cast of its two 'parent' series, and tossed into a time-travelling space-ship, the true joy of Legends of Tomorrow has often been in simply watching these eccentric characters interact with each other, and respond to the increasingly bizarre situations that they found themselves in.

This definitely counted as a significant positive in the first season, where the team's wild adventures served to balance out the somewhat underwhelming central plot-line – and, it definitely seems to be a trend that has continued into the second season. But, in this second season, though, it seems that we now have the best of both elements – as the continuing adventures of these wildly varied heroes is now combined with some much more compelling villains.

In this episode, in particular, we see the true benefit of that new status quo – as we reach the mid-season finale with a genuinely exciting confrontation between heroes and villains, in 1920s Chicago. With Damian Darhk and Eobard Thawne now seemingly set on allying themselves with the notorious gangster, Al Capone (Isaac Keoughan), the 'Legends' soon come to realise that this must mean that Eliot Ness (Cole Vigue), the man famously responsible for Capone's arrest, is in danger. So, in order to prevent an alteration to the time-line which will see Al Capone eventually use his influence to become mayor of Chicago, the team rush in to prevent this new aberration.

But, of course, things are a little more complicated than that – as, rather than being the true goal, Eliot Ness is really just the bait in a trap intended to draw out the 'Legends'. With the 'Legends' drawn to 1920s Chicago, Eobard Thawne, Damian Darhk, and their newest ally, Malcolm Merlyn, are able to move forward with their true plan – that being to infiltrate the Waverider, and recover the amulet that Sara had been able to steal from Darhk earlier in the season.

Overall, this was a pretty fantastic episode – I might even go as far as claiming that it is the best of the season, so far. Honestly, the only real negative I could point to would be the fact that I would have liked for Al Capone and Eliot Ness to have had a larger role to play in the episode. Though, in saying that, I am well aware of the fact that the episode wasn't really ever intended to be about them. In keeping with the trend set by both The Flash and Arrow, previously, it is clear that the real purpose of this mid-season finale is to put the focus firmly on the season's villains – and, on this point, the episode does a great job.

The issues of how, or even why, Malcolm Merlyn would come to join this villainous team-up isn't explored in any great detail, of course – but, in the end, that hardly seems to matter. It's enough to assume that he has his reasons – and, that his being there gives us the opportunity to enjoy John Barrowman's portrayal of the charismatic villain in a very different context. Damian Darhk, too, has some truly great moments throughout this episode – with Neal McDonough's already well-proven blend of charm and menace once again on display. Of the three, though, it is Eobard Thawne who benefits the most from this episode – with Matt Letscher continuing the mark the role his own.

Of course, the big draw of the episode would have to be the action sequence that results, once the villains are able to successfully force their way onto the Waverider – with a brief, though very entertaining, confrontation between Sara Lance and Malcolm Merlyn only just being upstaged by the team's struggles against Thawne. Possibly the most interesting part of the Reverse-Flash's inclusion in this season of Legends of Tomorrow is the opportunity to see exactly how dangerous and over-powering a speedster truly is from another point of view – with the heroes seeming clearly overwhelmed, and outclassed, by Eobard Thawne.

One other element of this episode that, I have to admit, I wasn't entirely sure about was the surprising appearance of Wentworth Miller as Leonard Snart. It had already been revealed that the character would be returning in some form, of course – but, the manner in which he returned left me feeling a bit confused. The idea that he would appear as a hallucination of Mick Rory's, seemingly there just to question his commitment to the team, just didn't work for me. At the same time, though, I was left wondering if there may actually be more to Snart's strange reappearance than there appears to be. It is, afterall, notable that both The Flash and Arrow also featured the surprising return of previously dead characters – with the appearance of Cisco's brother, Dante, actually serving as a fairly important plot-point for the mid-season finale of The Flash. It is interesting to think that these appearances could actually be connected, in some way – and that they could, possibly, hint at a more subtle cross-over element. But, of course, there's no real indication of that, beyond my own speculation – so, I could just be reading too much into it. For now, though, I suppose I just have to reserve judgement.

Overall, though, this was a fantastic way to bring the the second season of Legends of Tomorrow to its mid-season break. There is definitely a lot to look forward to – with some clear hints about what the still not entirely formed 'Legion of Doom' has planned, and even the surprising reappearance of Rip Hunter, at the very end. It's definitely enough to leave me feeling very impatient for the show's return, early next year.

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